Prison Monologue


Prisoner, this is your first day in this facility.  Forget time, forget freedom, forget life outside, forget emotion and most of all, forget everything.  Also, bear this in mind.  You were never invited here at all.  You simply appeared before us because that is what our justice system wants.  Both of us therefore do not wish to be with each other yet here we are in front of one another, well that is fate.

First of, there is only one requirement here to survive.  We expect everyone to be humble.  Ignore it and you are a goner.  Ignore it and life would be miserable.  Ignore it and you will never be sane for the rest of the time you are expected to serve here.  Deception is the order of the day but never, never allow yourself to conduct your routine in our presence using it as medium.  Remember that deception is not an attribute of humility.  You will perish if you do just that.  Be true to yourself and if in the course of your detention you must have to deceive, deceive yourself first and from there stop deceiving.  There is wisdom in said action.  You will be able to resist the irrational nature of communal life and in the process; you would gain entry into a period of creativity.

You have plenty of rights.  It is not true that there is no such thing as human rights for prisoners.  It is gibberish a thought.  Not because the fountain head of human rights—freedom— has been stripped off from your being, you lose all human rights.  That is pure myth.  Lights, potable water, faith, education and work are human rights in the prison community.  You can determine a right from privilege.  A right is something significant, something that could not be taken away, even if freedom has been removed.  A privilege on the other hand is something granted and can easily be taken away.  Prison life is a dynamic interaction of rights and privileges.  You have it and it is there always.  It is however up to you to sustain it for your purpose.  It simply means that you adhere to prison rules.

I tell you what.  Prison is not a place where offenders are to be punished.  The criminal justice system imposed incarceration to offenders, separating them from the free community for a period depending on the offense, as a matter of penalty.  That is the punishment.  The segregation is the punishment in itself.  Ignore the thought that commencement of punishment begins in prison and that my role is to pound you continuously as punishment.  I am here to oversee your welfare even if society has shunned you already.  I am one part of society though that believes in the goodness of man.  As a matter of fact, government pays me to make such concern a career.  Cooperate therefore.  Let your goodness reflect through every activity you are given to perform with humility on top of everything.  I tell you, incarceration is not that unfortunate at all.

Of course, there are drawbacks in communal life.  You will be forced to live and share everything with all your fellow inmates—stories, life stories including communal odor.  The scent of communal life is overwhelming but it is something you can live by.  There are occasional threats to your sanity, like loneliness and enforced discipline, as in regular headcount, food distribution and even in evening taps but you can adjust to it.  Remember that prison life is also akin to living in the free community.  Every segment in your waking time is an occasion for intrigue and blasphemy.  What differentiates your community with the one you left behind however is the fact that you are within a social system which is the exact inverse of the free community.  What makes you smile outside, it will make you sad inside.  Try to think of your loved ones and you will get my point.  Everything therefore that matters outside is pure fleeting moments that are useless inside.  Acquaint yourself to it for a period of time.  It will help you find your humanity intact.

Prison is a make or break affair for you.  You adjust and you are fine.  You find difficulty in adjusting, you are broken.  It is as simple as that.  The barb wires around your facility are not exactly a sight to behold if you are trying to make something of yourself.  I understand your predicament.  But I am always there to cushion your life.  Make me a friend and an elder brother and things would turn out right.  Treat me as your foe then you will never achieve peace of mind.  We will only be forced to accept our relationship in terms of violence.  Remember that we are constantly living in a world where violence is understood as a common language.  Let’s change it.

Tomorrow will be any other day.  Everything from hereon will always be familiar.  The same routine, grinding slowly and almost customary.  It tames the wild and exploits the tamed.  It is circular and cyclical.  Life revolves in a seemingly endless schedule.  It is out rightly monotonous and boring.  Learn to read or read during your spare time.  Do something worthy like writing or praying.  Rehabilitation only means a state where one gains respect through humility.  Be respectful of others and be understanding and you will lessen the dullness of your surroundings.   That way, it will sharpen your mind and make you stronger as you reach the end of your prison term.

You need it once you leave the facility and begin to exercise love.  Meanwhile, while serving time, forget love.  Everything in prison is about rules.


By:  Venancio J. Tesoro

Prison Superintendent

Davao Penal Colony

Davao del Norte, Mindanao




Facebook:  Ven Tesoro (

Mobile:  09212658920

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Davao Penal Colony

DAVAO PENAL COLONY:  A Template for an Ideal Correctional Facility

Move over Michael Jackson pretenders, a better view is about to unfold within the corrective service of the country.  This is one facility which must also be appreciated not from the prism of youtube but of social science as well.

There was a time when the rule was to forget the offenders, expose them as entertainers and extract much through exploitation that which is supposed to be utilized for their rehabilitation and promote thievery in the coffers that would promote their welfare, but over in Davao Prison and Penal Farm , another situation is aborning.  It had its own separate agenda.  Previously, it has been the site of all known brutal violence in the past, so brutal that its history is enough to discourage an officer or a prisoner from being assigned in the area.  Riots and hostage drama in the national penitentiary were veritable picnic sessions when compared to Davao Penal Colony’s record of mayhem.  It was an institution that has existed on the fringes of luck and survived at the edge.  And the picture of bestiality  and savagery subsided eventually as the institution veered from the traditional closed prison approach to a work/ training oriented facility as it is now being conducted.

Davao Prison today

To date, Davao Prison and Penal Farm, with its well ordered plantation within the prison reservation, the disciplined community of workers/trainees among the prison community, the dormitories and projects and lately, the foundation of the only correctional facility for women in Mindanao are testimonies of change—quite half a decade more advanced than the quest for change which the present administration wanted to bring forth—which is already reaping quite a number of review and appreciation.  Change can indeed happen and the skeptics may have their own comeuppance once they see the place and try to believe that indeed it can happen despite the odds and challenges.  And change happened at a period when plunder is in the midst, abuse the order of the day and indifference, the climate of bureaucracy.  It is a plenary lesson which the new administration can take a leaf from.   Change can indeed be pursued through sheer audacity and yes, honesty as expected from the ranks.

Institutional lessons

Governance, it has been said, is the proper blending of government, private business sector and the  free community.  It is reflected on the very fabric of institutional programs which has become the major change factor in the management not only of prison resources but also in the rehabilitation of prisoners.  Private and Church based colleges have found Davao prison a  very receptive social laboratory for their educational concerns.  Private corporate enterprise not only provided its technology in developing prison farms but enrolled the prisoners in agro industrial tasks and discipline, resulting in a productive pursuit which generated a revenue  benefiting all major penal institutions in the country.  The establishment of a Correctional Institution for Women made Davao Prison the only regional facility in the country which services for female offenders in the whole Mindanao.  It was the pride of the women sector in Mindanao and for the visiting women dignitaries (for ambassadors, to Zonta, and Soroptomist) it was an accomplishment worth their crusade.  The facility, notwithstanding its locally constructed infrastucture can stand on equal footing with the best facility in Southeast Asia.

Davao Correctional Reforms

Davao Prison and Penal Farm has advanced to a certain degree that one can already make an impression which is worthy as an educational sojourn.  Arguably, it can pass as a tourist destination sans the usual degree of apprehension one experiences when visiting a penal facility.   The penal institution has come of age.

Institutional exposures

Last year, all agencies of the Department of Justice regional office (region 11) in celebrating its 112th foundation anniversary had chosen Dapecol as its program site.  “It is safer, ironically, in Davao Prison than any place in Davao City to hold our celebration.” Says Chief State Prosecutor Antonio Arellano.  Atty. Romulo Manapsal, then NBI regional director, seconded, after assessing the peace and order situation of the region, which at that time was marred with threats to public safety.    The whole day affair of the Anniversary capped with legal and medical assistance not only to the prison community but to outlying communities; and on the whole, it was concluded with success.

San Pedro College registrar pursued an unimaginable move.  She coordinated a program by  establishing a private library for prisoners in both male and female ward of Davao Prison.  It was firmed up further when the Ignatian Institute of Theology Education (based in Davao City) negotiated for the opening of their scholarship for prisoners who wanted to pursue theological education while serving time.  It was an elaborate pedagogical exercise where virtues and academic skills are integrated into the mainstream of disciplinary regime in the prison rehabilation scheme.  As it were, the provincial  passing grade and average of those who successfully hurdled the ALS (Alternative Learning System) in Davao province is dependent on the showing of prisoner-passers.  Prisoners would top the examination for quite sometime.

Volunteerism in Arts

Not to be outdone in the field of prison volunteerism, bemedaled and acclaimed Mindanao artist Kublai Milan went to organize a fine arts class among interested prisoners and shared his expertise in cement-based sculpture.  After 3 weeks of immersion along with artists from National Commission on Culture and Arts, his class was able to renovate the prison park and transformed it into a gallery of sculptural wonders.

The list of activities is becoming longer by the day and the institution is now preparing for its pioneering attempt in forging an after-care program for released prisoners.  Under the procedure, released prisoners will be assisted in various administrative concerns from seeking clearances to referral for employment.

The Prison Service

Prison service is an ungrateful calling and at times an unpopular career.  And yet, there must be a system which transform a misdirected humanity back to the mainstream of law abiding citizenry.  It has often been said that the window of a civilization may be gleaned from the landscape of its penal institutions.

By:  Superintendent Ven J. Tesoro

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